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Baker & Taylor celebrates 60th year

MOMENCE — On July 30, 1962, a Momence fixture opened on the city’s south side and the company continues to thrive there and, despite some stormy weather, the organization celebrated its sixth decade in eastern Kankakee County.

Baker & Taylor, based in Charlotte, N.C., is the largest supplier of library content, software and services in the United States. The company provides service to more than 6,000 libraries.

“When you think about it, Baker & Taylor was a predecessor to Amazon with books. The company has been distributing books not only in the Midwest and the country, but across the world,” said Tim Nugent, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County. “They are one of those companies the people don’t know is there unless they are looking for them. Unless you are from Momence, you don’t think about them.”

Starting with a workforce of 29, the company finished 1962 with 150 employees. While the number of employees has fluctuated during the years — it now has more than 400 — the mission has always been the same.

Baker & Taylor provides books from publishers to schools and libraries. The company ships books, DVDs and music, and it supplies technology solutions which allow lending institutions to streamline workflow and improve efficiency.

Despite changes in the way the population might gather its information, Baker & Taylor remains a key company in the distribution of the material.

With an original footprint of 120,000 square feet at 501 S. Gladiolus St., the plant at Illinois Route 114 has been expanded five times, the latest being in 1999, and is now a whopping 379,000 square feet.

Baker & Taylor operates two shifts. The plant is in production from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.

Momence Mayor Chuck Steele is 61 years old — one year older than Baker & Taylor’s tenure in Momence.

“It means an awful lot to have an employer like them here,” he said. “Any industrial business like this is huge and Momence is blessed to have several long-time employers like this.

“Baker & Taylor has not only managed to remain here, but grow. While some people may not notice Baker & Taylor, we sure do here.”

While the company has remained a Momence fixture since 1962, it has gone through change. The company began in 1828 in Hartford, Conn., by David Robinson and B.B. Barber as a bookbinder and subscription book publisher, the company relocated to New York City in 1835.

In 1885, it was acquired by James Baker and Nelson Taylor, thus becoming Baker & Taylor. By 1912, the company closed the publishing portion of its business and focused on wholesale distribution in the bookstore and library market.

The company has been through several acquisitions, the latest being in November 2021 when the private investment group led by Aman Kochar, Baker & Taylor’s CEO and president, purchased the company from Follett Corp.

Follett had owned the company since April 2016.

But while the ownership has changed a few times during the company’s long life, one thing remains stable when it comes to the Momence plant, at least.

“They are a consistent employer,” Nugent said. “They ship their product around the world, but people are so used to them being there they really don’t pay much attention to them. They are on a dead-end street there. They are a hidden gem.”

Iroquois County deputies arrest Gilman man

GILMAN — Iroquois County Sheriff’s Police arrested Jesse K. McGehee, 40, of Gilman, and charged him with domestic battery and endangering the life of a child on Aug. 3.

According to police reports, deputies were dispatched to the 100 block of East Park Street in Gilman after it was reported that McGehee was witnessed pushing a four-year-old and six-year-old out of a moving vehicle.

The police report said one of the victims sustained injuries.

McGehee left the scene prior to police arrival, the police report said.

After an investigation, McGehee was located and taken into custody. He posted the required bond and was released, according to police.

In April, McGehee was indicted for aggravated battery of a peace officer (two counts) and domestic battery following an incident that occurred in December 2021 in rural Danforth.

McGehee was shot after he drove his truck into another vehicle and pushed that vehicle toward two deputies, according to police.

The deputies responded to a 911 call of a domestic disturbance at a residence in rural Danforth. McGehee was suspected of being involved in a domestic dispute with another resident and leaving the scene.

McGehee returned and took actions that endangered the lives of the other residents, as well as the deputies, police said. 

Illinois State Police investigated at the request of Iroquois County Sheriff Clint Perzee. 

County jail inmate remains alive

KANKAKEE — A male inmate at Jerome Combs Detention Center who attempted suicide last week is still alive, according to the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department.

The incident occurred Thursday.

The inmate was taken to a local hospital to be treated, they said.

Due to the quick actions and work of medical and correction staff, the inmate had a pulse when he left the building, according to the sheriff’s police.

No further information is being released at this time.